This coming year looks to be one of change for southeastern NC. Two weeks ago, Rep. Mike McIntyre, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, announced his retirement. McIntyre faced a tough reelection battle, after narrowly winning in 2012 by only 654 votes against State Senator David Rouzer.
In the legislature, Sen. Michael Walters (D-Robeson) and Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) announced their retirements. Goolsby’s announcement was a bit of a surprise. Polls showed him to be one of the most endangered incumbents. Goolsby will probably reemerge in 2016, perhaps to run for the open Attorney General’s spot. Republicans are favored to keep his seat. Walters’ District 13 seat comprises Robeson and Columbus counties and is by registration one of the most Democratic in the state; Democrats will hold his seat.
The 7th District race will probably cement Republican dreams of a 10-3 GOP congressional delegation. If this goal is not realized, then it will much more likely be due to a GOP blunder in another congressional race than this one. The 7th went for Romney by 59%. The Republican primary will be tantamount to election, and it looks to be a competitive one. David Rouzer is running, as is Woody White, New Hanover County Commissioner and a former State Senator. Last year, Rouzer won over Ilario Pantano, also from Wilmington, by running up huge margins in Johnston County. To win, either candidate must make inroads in the other’s base. Rouzer will benefit from the name recognition gained from the 2012 contest; White’s advantage is that the district’s geography favors a Wilmington-based candidate.
Beyond 2014, Southeastern NC is a bright spot for Republicans going forward, and not just through conservative Democrats changing their registration. The area is also seeing an influx of affluent individuals, mostly retirees, mostly settling along the coast. Except for the city of Wilmington proper, the area is trending Republican and prospects are good for conservative candidates here going forward.